After months of revising having put your heart and soul into doing evvvverything you could to pass an exam, the exam still goes badly. It went so badly that you wish you barely revised at all considering it felt as though it did not make much of a difference anyway. The exam was nothing like the past papers or worse, it was a decent exam but you messed up your timing and could not finish. Regardless of the scenario, it was a bad exam experience. Sound familiar? I know I have been there.

Following this dreaded exam you have not been able to get the exam out of your head. You may be the type to discuss your answers with anyone and everyone or perhaps even go on The Student Room to look for the solutions after an exam. This is something we are probably all guilty of.

bad exam experience

The wait for results can be excruciating and it genuinely can be so hard to shake off a terrible exam experience. It is even worse when you need to pick yourself up following an awful exam because you have another the next day. This situation gets especially bad when the nightmares and dreams of failing kick in. It is horrible. Well, I am here to help!

Check out my YouTube video if you would prefer watching to reading (I think this one may be more helpful in video)!

ACA Exam Results

If you are reading this article and are not an ACA student, scroll down to the 4 tips below.

One thing about the ACA that I am guilty of is letting the exams get to me once I have completed them. It is particularly difficult when sitting an exam one day and then having another the next day. However, the next exam can be a good distraction although I have rarely seen it this way. There is the other side to this where depending on how the exam(s) went the day before, it can be quite disheartening too. For example, where you have revised a lot and you feel it did not pay off. In this instance, you must literally just suck it up to get through the next sitting.

It is important to allow yourself to have an hour or so to sulk if needed to get your emotions out. However, only do this if you do not have another exam the following day. You do not want one potential failure to cause another actual failure.

I will shortly be releasing a blog post on sitting three Professional Level exams at once and the intensity of this. Join the journey so you do not miss this!

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ACA Certificate Level Exam Results

The Certificate Level examinations results are calculated instantly as these exams are predominantly multiple choice but the results are released the next day. Even this wait is unbearable even though it is only a day especially as they are the first exams. At this point you are probably itching to get a few passes under your belt.

mcq exam results

ACA Professional and Advanced Level Exam Results

The Professional Level and Advanced Level exams on the other hand have a six week wait. This wait makes it more difficult because even if you are convinced you have failed, you would still not know whether to keep revising for a resit or wait until the results.

wait or revise for resit bad exam experience

In those six weeks, for all exams sittings I have always had that one exam I have had negative thoughts about or been convinced I failed. These exams were TC, BPT and CR. Unsurprisingly, these have ended up ranking as some of my hardest ACA exams because of these bad experiences. These doubts brought my fair share of bad dreams. I had many nightmares where I dreamt I had failed. This was extremely common and distressing.

Read the tips below to help shake these feelings off.

How to shake off a bad exam and the feeling of failure

1. What are the consequences?

failing exam so what

Perspective is really important here. Thinking of the worst case scenario here, how will failing actually impact your life? It may mean you can no longer go down the path you were planning to. However, the more likely scenario is that it may cause a slight delay to your plan. You will still get there. Change your mindset. Point 3 below really highlights this.

The mindset where everything happens for a reason can massively help you here. Think of a time you have not been successful before and where it led you. Hopefully the outcome was positive in the end.

For the ACA specifically, in some cases firms have rules where employees who hard fail or fail a resit will lead to a loss of their job. This impact is significant but remember, everything happens for a reason. One firm’s loss is another firm’s gain! I have seen many students transfer between firms and it is not as hard as you would imagine!

It may even lead you down the path of another career more suited to you. To make myself feel better, I would always say to myself I will become a personal trainer if I failed and got fired. Nevertheless, there is a positive outlook to every bad situation. This includes less extreme impacts include qualifying that little bit later as I have touched upon. Perhaps you could even sit more exams in the next sitting and not be impacted at all.

2. Take it as a lesson

Whatever experience you had, which resulted in the bad exam experience, pass or fail, take it as a lesson. If you have read 5 best ways to minimise exam stress, you will know one key tip is to know what works for you. Had you not have had this bad exam experience, you may have had this later on in another exam. This happened to me with a university exam where I realised that if I sit an exam on little sleep I will get mind blanks. Never again.

Reflect on what went wrong and take this as an opportunity to learn from these mistakes. Not that it matters to you now but you may even be able to help others in the future as they can learn from these mistakes too. I will soon be posting a blog about what went wrong with my CR exam and how I almost failed. Join my journey to learn from my mistakes.

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3. Failure success stories

Some of the most successful people have had to fail to get to where they are today. J K Rowling, Oprah, Bill Gates; these are a only a few of many. They used the lessons they learnt to overcome the setbacks. I also recently read this inspiring story about BrewDog.

Take these success stories as motivation to help you get through this tough time. Failure does not define you so shake it off and forget about it. You have got this.

Looking at ACA specific cases, within my firm there are several cases where people have failed but have still qualified. They are also great at their jobs too. I have heard of Partners, Associate Directors and Managers failing and having to resit. It happens to the best of us. Do not beat yourself up or doubt your self-worth. One bad exam does not make you any less clever than you are. Celebrate your achievements so far and just think, so what?

4. Wait it out!

Honestly, just wait. If you do not have your result(s) yet STOP STRESSING. I of all people know this is much easier said than done but it is true. You cannot change the outcome but you can change how you deal with the post exam stress. Think about how many exams up to this point you have thought you have failed and hopefully haven’t.

As I mentioned above, I was CONVIIINCED that I failed CR. I did not even answer half a question and had the worst exam imaginable. This was an exam I questioned why I even revised as much as I did. I went through every exam question and answers with my colleagues after the exam and was constantly kicking myself.

To show you just how convinced I was that I failed, for the afternoon of CR results day I had even set up a call with my work coach. I thought I would need this time to discuss my failure and next steps. With that being said, I still managed to (scrape) a pass. All that wasted energy stressing was for no reason!

If you are an ACA student, the pass rates for ICAEW exams are fairly high so just wait and see what happens. Hope scaling (there must be scaling) is on your side. TC and BPT both were a similar story but I actually scored 70 and 81 respectively! To think I was going to start revising for TC’s resit straight after the exam too *face palm*.

You may think you know you have failed but you never really do know… good luck!

In the meantime feel free to join the ACA LinkedIn group where you will find links to the ACA Telegram groups – connect with others and hopefully they can make you feel better too.

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